Public Defender’s Office secures social worker, Funded by state grant

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EUREKA, Calif. (KIEM)-The Humboldt County Public Defender’s office has been hoping to hire a social worker for years now they can through a state grant specifically designed to help their clients find and maintain stable permanent housing.

According to Humboldt County’s Public Defender Marek Reavis, homelessness is a community issue.

“The problem of homelessness is right before our eyes, on almost every sidewalk and street of this county,” he said.

The office of public defenders received a nearly $275,000 grant designed to assist individuals and families actively experiencing homelessness, or on the brink, through Homeless Emergency Aid Program or HEAP.

“So essentially there are resources available within the county, within the state system and Ms. Whotherspoon is our social worker here is able to find the individuals who need that help, guide them through the process really assist them every step of the way,” said Reavis.

Isabella Whotherspoon is the new social worker hired-on to help the most vulnerable population in Humboldt County.  

“You have a lot of people that are at risk that don’t get their needs met until their involved in the criminal justice system. It’s an unfortunate reality but because the mental health care system or lack thereof that we have in this country,” she said.

The program will help 10 clients with a wide range of support in the form of referrals, transportation, rental and pre-housing assistance.

Clients are chosen from internal referrals only, their focus is to assist clients with accessing, attaining and sustaining safe and stable permanent housing.

“Unfortunately, in this day in age whether you are talking about economics or whether you’re talking about income inequality or whether you’re talking about discrimination based on race or sex,” she said. “These all, are still very relevant issues and they play a role on who can attain housing, and who cannot.”

The HEAP Program is a pilot project that is expected to end in June, dependent on the success of the program.

“Since homelessness isn’t going to be ended anytime soon this program we hope will continue after its expiration date but also hopefully expand,” said Reavis.